This past month soup kitchens, charities, and homeless shelters were filled with happy smiling volunteers’ eager to make a difference for those in need. Families and friends joined together in the spirit of thankfulness and a desire to give back, all returning home beaming with pride as they rejoice in their hearts. One week later those same soup kitchens sit understaffed, underfunded, and filled with people eager to fill their bellies one more day.
By Selene Muldowney
This month we all await the next few weeks leading up to the New Year. If you discount the blatant consumerism and crowded malls, the Thanksgiving to New Year season really does bring out the best in people – at least the best intentions. Really if we are honest, it is a shame we only seek to donate to charities as a seasonal obligation. We jump at the chance to serve our communities in the soup lines at Thanksgiving and Christmas yet forget the other 10 months those same soup lines need us just as badly.
The spirit of the season is really a spirit of love, generosity, and kindness. It illuminates a picture into our souls and hearts as we take pause in our busy lives and remember the people around us. It is a time for reflection. And by all means I would encourage you to reach deep into your wallet and fill those toys for tots’ baskets, volunteer in the soup lines, and donate your spare change; however, I would encourage you to really reach out and help your fellow man. Enrich the lives of others without seeking that good feeling as recompense.
I challenge you this season to make a conscious decision to become an active member of your community all year. People need help through the year from homeless families needing diapers and clothing for their infants to school age children needing their own pencils, notebooks, and shoes to wear. Consider the number of women in shelters seeking solace from abuse, hiding their children from domestic violence, or the children in hospitals whose families cannot afford to visit. Elderly patients sit in homes alone, their families abandoned them long ago, veterans disabled sitting in VA hospitals reminiscing of better times.
These people don’t want to beg for your help. They feel lonely, scared, afraid to ask for help, and often hopeless. They have dignity and pride yet stand with their children in that soup line knowing they have few choices. This is not the time to judge them or berate them; most recently many people lost everything in this season’s hurricanes, especially in Puerto Rico.
Consider donating gift cards instead of toys to charities or making real connections with people by donating something far more precious than standing in a soup line – spend time listening to a veteran or a forgotten patient at an elder care facility. Give your talents, skills, knowledge, and self. Instead of wrapping up the year and waiting for next season to give – start the year with a plan to become a better steward in your community.